Reverse Sod Swap, The Swap – April 9th/10th 2024

An exchange of turfs between West Wales and East London took place Tuesday April 9th and Wednesday April 10th, 2024

Mike Perry marking out turf circle, West Wales

In 1983, land artist David Nash transplanted a piece of rough North Wales countryside (8 m turf circle) into the lawn of the Serpentine Gallery as part of The British Sculpture show. He was bringing a bit of rough countryside to the city. He took the pristine circle of London grass back to Wales where he continued to mow it for several years. He called it ‘Sod Swap’. A botanist counted 27 species in the Welsh turf and 3 species in the London turf.

In 2024, with David Nash’s support, Perry has transplanted a circle of wildflower meadow from an East London Park into a West Wales sheep grazed field. The Welsh ‘sheep mown’ turf has gone to East London (Springfield Park) where it will be mowed regularly. He’s called it ‘Reverse Sod Swap’. Mike is taking a piece of inner city ‘wildness’ to the countryside and bringing a piece of farmed countryside to the inner city. Perry wants to highlight the impacts of enlightened ‘wilding’ of our inner city parks with the degrading impacts of monoculture farming in our National Parks, areas of so called ‘Outstanding Natural Beauty’.

Welsh circle with turf removed, ready for London turf.
Mike marking out circle with volunteers, Springfield Park, Hackney, London
Coffee break, half way through cutting out sods, Springfield Park.
Last few Welsh turfs going in at Springfield Park.
Hackney sods on van ready to go to Wales
Onlookers in Wales. Sods from Springfield Park waiting to be bedded in.

Starting at 7.00am Tuesday April 9th, 2024 we cut out 84 turf sods from a ring 8 metres wide. Each sod was 90cms long by 30cms wide, 10cms deep, weighing aprox 30kgs. They were loaded into a van and transported to Springfield Park, East London. We unloaded the van early Wednesday 10th April with the help of volunteer artists, urban gardeners and an ultra running club. By mid- day we had exchanged sods from an identical circle marked out on a patch of meadow opposite Springfield House. The sods were driven back to Wales and were unloaded in the dark by a team of local welsh volunteers. Mike laid the turfs into the Welsh circle at Ffynnonofi Thursday morning with the help of Matt Horgan.

Mike putting final London sods into Welsh turf circle

The turfs fitted remarkably well. The last sod was aprox 3 inches too large, which was to be expected given the small gaps between sods. The London turfs already had sigins of wild flowers emerging. Hopefully they will grow and bloom in their new environment. I built a fence to keep sheep and Welsh ponies out of the site until the project is over later in the year.

Hackney turf with wildflower being placed into circle in Wales

We’ve tried to make the project as green as possible. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find an electric vehicle that could take the weight. We will offset this carbon with the planting of a native hedgerow adjacent to the Welsh circle in Autumn 2024. We made the plastic carriers from a recycled plastic building membrane. The production from my studio in Wales has run 100% on renewable energy.

Springfield Park turf in place at Ffynnonofi, West Wales
Location in East London is opposite Springfield Cafe, Springfield Park, E5 9EF

The sculptures will hopefully come alive and become more evident as the grasses and wildflowers grow up during the summer. At Springfield Park, the wilded area opposite the cafe will flourish leaving a mown circle of agricultural Welsh turf. In Wales, a circle of Springfield Park flowers and grasses will emerge out of the sheep grazed Welsh field. A botanist will count the species in both circles. Thats the plan anyway !

Many thanks to all the volunteers who came out to help in Wales and Hackney. Thanks also to Hackney Council and in particular the gardeners and rangers. There will be an opening event at Springfield House 6.00pm, July 4th, 2024.

Update – May 22nd 2024

Springfield Park, East London

At Springfield Park, East London (above), a diverse selection of wild grasses and flowers have started to come up around the Welsh turf. In Wales (below), the London turf is slowly coming through. Its probably growing slower because of the cooler coastal air and there are signs of rabbits eating the wild flower tips. I might need to some security!

Springfield Park turf circle at Ffynnonofi, West Wales
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